DEFENSE: How many new Beavs could play early?

CORVALLIS – Top-notch defensive recruiting was largely responsible for the Beavs highly ranked class of 2013. But who among the new defensive recruits can make a push for playing time this fall? Will any particular position benefit from some healthy competition for reps? And should any of the incumbents feel their seats getting hotter with the additions of this new set of teammates?

BF.C takes a magnifying glass to the incoming defensive class in order to examine those questions.

Oregon State knew they would be hurting at defensive tackle after the departures of Castro Masaniai and Andrew Seumalo.

Likewise, Mike Riley and Co. know their troops are by no means invulnerable. Injuries and accidents occur – see Scott Crichton's shoulder injury that sidelined him during the spring.

The big story here is that the questions are mounting for the Beaver D-line, and few answers have been presented thus far even though two DT's landed in Corvallis early to participate in spring drills.

Can one of the seven inbound defensive linemen step up and make an early impact in the fall? What are the odds?

Well, from this chair, the odds are pretty good if you are Kyle Peko.

THE 6-2, 295-POUND defensive tackle from La Habra, Calif. is arguably the most-ready DT in the 2013 recruiting class.

Peko has three years to play two seasons. But unless Riley and Co. are dead sure that Siale Hautau and Edwin Delva, who both arrived early and participated in spring ball, are the duo that will fill the starting positions come August, you may see Peko get an early jump start on those two years.

Couple that with Hautau's injury in the early swing of spring ball and it further leaves the door open for a big-body guy like Peko.

Peko has a powerful mix of size, speed and technique that could be of immediate use to Oregon State -- the holes in the defensive line are obvious and he brings good JUCO experience to the corps.

But defensive tackle is one of the hardest positions to ease into right out the gate at the college level. This was blatantly obvious during the spring from my place on the sideline, where both Hautau, in light of limited snaps, and Delva were mediocre at best in their production.

From where I'm sitting, that is the result adjusting their game to fit a different tier of intensity and opposing talent.

I covered them extensively in my spring reports - Hautau breaking his hand forced him to miss upward of two and a half weeks of practice time, and Delva struggled at times to adjust to the pace he was expected to maintain. It happens.

And it will probably happen with Peko, too. But I believe it will happen to a lesser degree. It's one of the more intriguing things in fall camp I'm looking forward to observing and covering for Beaver Nation.

AND THIS IS also where guys like Lyndon Tulimasealii, Charles Tuaau and Fred Lauina come into the picture. Sure they are defensive ends by calling, but they are also 265-270 pounds apiece and trained pursuit guys.

They get after the QB, even when it isn't for a sack, and may well provide the type of power behind Crichton and Dylan Wynn that is lacking in current seniors Devon Kell and John Braun. It could also lead to the Beavs playing more odd-number fronts.

Whether Lauina and Tulimasealii play or redshirt is a good question, but the lean for me would be towards a redshirt for both. And with Launia, his position isn't set either -- he may be an o-lineman, or even a tight end, rather than getting down in his stance on the defensive line.

Tuaau will not redshirt, he has two-to-play-two. That being the case, I've got my eye on Tuaau as a candidate for Rudolf Fifita's vacated super-sub role, an important facet of the current Beaver defensive scheme that post-spring, still seems to be up for grabs headed into fall camp.

Titus Failauga is another guy who could see a redshirt year. The 6-4, 240, lineman out of Waipahu, Hawaii is the type of player who could really benefit from some time well spent under Joe Seumalo and Mark Banker.

OTHER EARLY PLAYING time decisions may be less complicated for Riley and Co. When looking at 2013 class of safeties and cornerbacks, the Beavers recruited very talented athletes with a lot of upside at positions – but ones that are not in any immediate despair.

Highly touted incoming freshman Dashon Hunt will have to work his way up a very tall ladder as far as playing time is concerned - Rod Perry has a slew of players at his disposal behind the likes of starters Rashaad Reynolds and Sean Martin.

The same can be said of safeties Justin Strong, Brandon Arnold and Charles Okonkwo.

At safety, the Beavs have three solid recruits in areas of little to no concern, assumedly enabling them to develop under the eye of Perry and learn from starters Ryan Murphy and Tyrequek Zimmerman and those behind them on the depth chart.

AND IT WOULD be a bit of a stretch to claim that any of the incoming linebackers will see many looks beyond the scout team in 2013.

Apart from Michael Doctor deciding to switch his sole focus to entomology or D.J. Alexander deciding to drop football and join the equestrian team, the Beavs are fairly well stacked the ‘backer slot.

Terin Solomon, Darrell Songy, Manase Hungalu or Michael Greer may instead seize fall camp as an opportunity to prove they should hop in line behind Doctor, whose 2013 season will be his last in college.

BUT KEEP THOSE eyes open. The element producing the ulcers is the defensive tackle situation if I am Banker or Seumalo.

Unless the injury bug gets really creative in August, my guess is you won't be seeing too many guys beyond Peko or Tuaau pushing for starting time/significant turns on the d-line.

Steven Nelson, who has a redshirt year available and went through spring ball, battled Martin at corner this spring and could play early, perhaps in rotation and certain defensive packages. Post-spring, I had Martin in the lead for the starting job opposite Rashaad Reynolds (lock) but Martin's lead was also a tenuous one.

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